Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea. Blog, Internet resources, online reading groups, articles and interviews, Illuminatus! info.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Robert Anton Wilson Fans revamped, the best collection of Robert Anton Wilson material on the Internet, has been revamped with a new look and new material. As Mike Gathers notes in a new posting on the site, it will continue to be a work in progress. Thanks to everyone on Twitter who spread the news about the relaunch.

Friday, March 30, 2012

RAW on Irish politics

Jesse Walker, hard at work in the stacks of the University of Michigan library as he toils on his upcoming book, The United States of Paranoia (see my interview with Mr. Walker) took time to share part of a letter with me that Robert Anton Wilson wrote to Don Werkheiser. The letter is dated Jan. 6, 1985, and was written in Dublin. The excerpt:

Irish politics: Garrett Fitzgerald is the current Taoiseach (pronounced tea-shuck, roughly). His policies are remarkably like those of Reagan and Thatcher. He has a Ph.D. in economics and is a monetarist. Charlie Haughey is the leader of the opposition. He wrote the law under which writers are exempt from income tax so, against my better judgement, I like him. He stood trial in 1970 for running guns for the I.R.A. but was acquitted; “everybody says” he was guilty as hell, but the jury was pro-I.R.A. in those days. He has tapes of the whales singing off the coast of his Kerry home, and other voices singing back at them; he claims the other voices are faeries. Neither Fitzgerald nor Haughey ever disagree with the Catholic hierarchy about anything, although they disagree about everything else. Dick Spring is the head of the Labour Party and does disagree with the Church, but guardedly (“We need to rethink the question,” etc.) The head of the Workers Party gets so little publicity that I have forgotten his name; he damns and blasts the Church openly, when he can get the press to listen. He is a Marxist, and former head of the I.R.A., although no longer friendly with them; they call him a “Stalinist stickie,” i.e. lost in the past. The head of the Sinn Fein (shin fayn) party is one Gerry Adams, who is widely believed (I might say universally believed) to be the head also of the I.R.A., although it is libelous to say so explicitly. There is actually a law against interviewing him on television (!) although he may paradoxically be interviewed in newspapers (!!). He says the Church sucks, capitalism sucks, all the other parties suck, and “armed struggle” is the only answer, although he denies that he is involved in it. There is also an Ecology Party and an Ecologist Party, but they get so little publicity that I have not discovered what vital ideological difference distinguishes them.

Whatever one thinks of all this, it is at least less monotonous and more entertaining than the two-party system in the U.S.

Werkheiser, by the way, is mentioned in this interview with Robert Anton Wilson.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Prometheus Rising and the "rat race"

San Francisco attorney and NLP practitioner Elizabeth Coleman is reading Prometheus Rising, and the book inspires a blog post on the "rat race" and being goal-oriented as opposed to enjoying life as you live it. See also her post "De-bunking Plato: Math is an invention, like language," which relates nicely to what Robert Anton Wilson wrote in Natural Law, among other places.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An unusual lawsuit

Here is an unusual lawsuit, reported by the Courthouse News Service:

MANHATTAN (CN) - An American expatriate in Bulgaria claims the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, the Office of International Treasury Control and the Italian government conspired with a host of others to steal more than $1.1 trillion in financial instruments intended to support humanitarian purposes.

The 111-page federal complaint involves a range of entities common to conspiracy theorists, including the Vatican Illuminati, the Masons, the "Trilateral Trillenium Tripartite Gold Commission," and the U.S. Federal Reserve.

Plaintiff Neil Keenan claims he was entrusted in 2009 with the financial instruments - which included U.S. Federal Reserve notes worth $124.5 billion, two Japanese government bonds with a combined face value of $19 billion, and one U.S. "Kennedy" bond with a face value of $1 billion - by an entity called the Dragon Family, which is a group of several wealthy and secretive Asian families.

More here. 

The article says that Keenan is represented by William H.  Mulligan Jr., of the law firm Bleakley, Platt and Schmidt, located in White Plains, N.Y., who apparently is a real lawyer.  Neil Keenan's Facebook page is here.

Hat tip, John Merritt.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dan Brown's lawyer: No RAW defense in plagiarism trial

Dan Brown, author of the mega-bestselling The Da Vinci Code, was sued for plagiarism by two of  the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the conspiracy theory book which claims that the Merovingian dynasty in France was descended from Jesus Christ. The judge ruled that as Holy Blood claimed to be history, Brown had the right to base a historical novel on it, just as any  novelist might use history as part of his material.

I have wondered for awhile now whether Brown's lawyers cited The Widow's Son by Robert Anton Wilson as part of their defense. After all, The Widow's Son also bases much of its plot on Holy Blood, Holy Grail and Wilson cited the book in the novel's footnotes. 

If the authors of Holy Blood believed that basing a novel's plot on their book was "plagiarism," then why didn't they object to The Widow's Son? Could it be, perhaps, that their objection to The Da Vinci Code was not based on principle, but on a desire to seize some of Brown's profits?

Via the Internet I tracked down John Baldwin, a British lawyer who is an expert on intellectual property and who represented Brown in the plagiarism lawsuit. I explained my interest in the case and asked Baldwin if The Widow's Son had come up during the trial.

Baldwin kindly took the time to email a reply to me. "As far as I can recall, Mr Wilson’s book was not brought up during the Da Vinci Code trial," he wrote.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Two images

Via the Rev. Dr. Narot on Twitter, a photo of a "secret UFO Illuminati painting," taken at a Starbucks at 11331 Camarillo St. in North Hollywood, Calif. (Hat tip, @narot23)

Jesse Walker, also via Twitter, has a daily feature called "Your morning image," and here is an image he shared on Dec. 29 on the structure of freemasonry. Click for larger image. (He's @notjessewalker).

Saturday, March 24, 2012

'I post probabilities, not certainties'

Belatedly, I have discovered the blog Dedroidify, heavily influenced by RAW and devoted to exploring consciousness and conspiracy research. Lots of postings, and lots of links to other blogs I had not heard of before. There's also a video cache. I am sure I'll be exploring this blog as time permits. The guy who does it says he lives in Belgium. His list of blogs that he follows omits mine. Perhaps I am too prosaic, but I am surprised he does not follow The Oz Mix.

Friday, March 23, 2012

RAW on death

I've been reading a series of posts at The Oz Mix, based on Oz Fritz's belief that "Some part of us can survive death. We call that part a bardo voyager." Elsewhere, he refers to "the radical idea that some part of us can be educated to survive the death of the body." Oz is a sound engineer, and he had to pause the posts so he could go to Milan, Italy, to work with a band that includes Bernie Worrell and Bill Laswell, but he has promised to resume the series at some point.

There is a section in the "Sirius Rising" chapter of Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati, which Oz Fritz probably understands better than I do,  in which Wilson describes taking a "programmed trip," with interesting results:

"The Yogi entered Samadhi and believed, at last, that the wisdom of the adept is truly beyond the floating body-rapture of mere Hatha Yoga. Based on understand of and participation in a planet-wide Consciousness, Samadhi opens the neuro-atomic memory which is in all living beings, and in that dancing quantum energy mistaken called 'dead matter'."

A few graphs later:

"The Shaman lost all fear of death, knowing it to be literally impossible. He understood the wit of Yeats' fine line, 'Man has created death'."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

New 'Historical Illuminatus' art

Artist Bobby Campbell has posted his new cover art for upcoming New Falcon editions of Robert Anton Wilson's three "Historical Illuminatus" books, The Earth Will Shake, The Widow's Son and Nature's God.

He says they are "coming soon from New Falcon and"

I asked if that meant there will be Kindle editions. He answered, "I'm not sure. I've made the case for why they should and even hooked em up w/ a service that'll convert everything. Here's hoping!"

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Steven Pinker on ideology

I've been reading RAW's Natural Law recently, and that has focused me on the uses (and abuses) of ideology. In relation to that, here's a quotation from Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined:

Individual people have no shortage of selfish motives for violence. But the really big body counts in history pile up when a large number of people carry out a motive that transcends any one of them: an ideology. Like predatory or instrumental violence, ideological violence is a means to an end. But with an ideology, the end is idealistic: a conception of the greater good.

Yet for all that idealism, it’s ideology that drove many of the worst things that people have ever done to each other. They include the Crusades, the European Wars of Religion, the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, the Russian and Chinese civil wars, the Vietnam War, the Holocaust, and the genocides of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. An ideology can be dangerous for several reasons. The infinite good it promises prevents its true believers from cutting a deal. It allows any number of eggs to be broken to make the utopian omelet. And it renders opponents of the ideology infinitely evil and hence deserving of infinite punishment.

Via Supergee, an important part of my daily info-diet.

Monday, March 19, 2012

RAW archive on YouTube

A Mr. K.K. Padmanabhan has pointed me to a RAW Archive on YouTube. The Croaker seems to have found a lot of material. His alchemical archives blog is worth a look, too. He currently has 23 postings there tagged to Robert Anton Wilson.

NOTE:  In the original version of this posting I erred and credited Padmanabhan for the archive and the blog, when I should have credited The Croaker.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

RAW on album cover

This is the album cover for a music artist named Mickey Moonlight; album is listed here.

Another musician, Leno Lovecraft, Tweeted, "Haha Just realised Robert Anton Wilson is on the @mickeymoonlight Album cover.. GENIUS."

The guy in the middle certainly looks like Wilson. Anybody else know any more about this?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Robert Anton Wilson in the Christian Science Monitor

The Christian Science Monitor offers a feature "Are you a true Ron Paul Supporter? Take our quiz!"

The third question is, "Now that "Atlas Shrugged" has been made into a film, what should be the next political book to be adapted to the big screen?"

The answer I chose was the last one in the multiple choice quiz, "Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's 'The Illuminatus! Trilogy,' starring Penn Jillette as Hagbard Celine."

Friday, March 16, 2012

A couple of quotations

"He was, in fact, characteristic of the best type of dominant male in the world at this time. He was fifty-five years old, tough, shrewd, unburdened by the complicated ethical ambiguities which puzzle intellectuals, and had long decided that the world was a mean son-of-a-bitch in which only the most cunning and ruthless can survive ... he genuinely loved children and dogs, unless they were on the site of something that had to be bombed in the National Interest."

 ILLUMINATUS!, Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson.

"While Shaye, 35, had long been known as a brave, independent-minded journalist in Yemen, his collision course with the US government appears to have been set in December 2009. [Abdulelah Halder Shaye is currently being held in prison on Barack Obama's request -- Ed.] On December 17, the Yemeni government announced that it had conducted a series of strikes against an Al Qaeda training camp in the village of al Majala in Yemen’s southern Abyan province, killing a number of Al Qaeda militants. As the story spread across the world, Shaye traveled to al Majala. What he discovered were the remnants of Tomahawk cruise missiles and cluster bombs, neither of which are in the Yemeni military’s arsenal. He photographed the missile parts, some of them bearing the label “Made in the USA,” and distributed the photos to international media outlets. He revealed that among the victims of the strike were women, children and the elderly. To be exact, fourteen women and twenty-one children were killed. Whether anyone actually active in Al Qaeda was killed remains hotly contested. After conducting his own investigation, Shaye determined that it was a US strike. The Pentagon would not comment on the strike and the Yemeni government repeatedly denied US involvement. But Shaye was later vindicated when Wikileaks released a US diplomatic cable that featured Yemeni officials joking about how they lied to their own parliament about the US role, while President Saleh assured Gen. David Petraeus that his government would continue to lie and say “the bombs are ours, not yours.”

"Why Is President Obama Keeping a Journalist in Prison in Yemen?" Jeremy Scahill, The Nation. (Full article here.)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

El Neil still loves RAW

I'm reading the new L. Neil Smith novel, a vampire fantasy called Sweeter Than Wine, as part of my Prometheus Award judging duties.

Smith, if you don't know him, is a libertarian science fiction writer. He's a rather strict libertarian, and also a huge fan of the ILLUMINATUS! trilogy who often slips in references to it or to RAW in his books.

His new book is no exception. The book is largely set in Colorado (where Smith lives) and on page 44 there's a reference to Fort Collins: "Nice place. I had business there from time to time. Younger natives call it 'Fort Funky.' Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea readers call it 'Fnord Collins'." (Smith lives in Fort Collins.)

I should mention that  he's won the Prometheus Award three times: for The Forge of the Elders (my favorite of his, among the El Neil books I've read), for Pallas (which I didn't particularly like) and for The Probability Broach (which I haven't read yet, and which for some reason lacks a Kindle edition.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Ken Campbell and ILLUMINATUS!

Liverpool Confidential runs a loving tribute to the theater impresario Ken Campbell. The piece devotes a great deal of space to the staging of ILLUMINATUS! and features some eye-opening illustrations.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A rare book featuring Wilson AND Shea

Does anyone know how I might get a chance to read a Borgo Press book called Seven by Seven: Interviews With American Science Fiction Writers of the West and Southwest by Neal Wilgus? It includes an interview with Robert Anton Wilson (apparently this one), and interviews with other writers I like, such as Robert Shea and Roger Zelazny. It's apparently pretty hard to find.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Maintaining security in your secret society

OK, so you want to successfully carry out your conspiracy on behalf of the Illuminati (or the anti-Illuminati). How can you keep your secret society safe from prying enemies or the FBI? A new paper, "The Dining Freemasons," by two British computer scientists, suggests security protocols for secret societies. (Hat tip, John Merritt).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Firesign Theatre founder dies

Peter Bergman, founder of Firesign Theare, has died.

Jesse Walker's obit at Reason notes, " As I wrote in Reason a few years ago, the records produced by Bergman's group "told dense, non-linear stories, with scenes linked by the logic of dreams, puns, free association, late-night channel-surfing, and a psychedelic anti-authoritarianism that wasn't so different from the libertarian politics of The Prisoner or the Illuminatus! trilogy. (At one point the Firesigns mulled the idea of optioning Illuminatus!, but they never followed through.)"

LA Times obit is here. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A 'Weird Histories' roundup

The Guardian runs Lloyd Shepherd's "top 10 weird histories," and it includes one of my favorite books, Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon. 

Most of the books on the list are novels or graphic novels, but Shepherd also lists The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Baigent, Leigh and Lincoln, purportedly at least a work of nonfiction. Shepherd writes, "The core assertion - that Christ did not die on the cross, but sired a line of "children of God" who are protected to this day by a secret society - was taken by Brown as the engine of The Da Vinci Code, featuring a character called Leigh Teabing whose name, of course, is an amalgum of two of the authors of The Holy Bloody and the Holy Grail. Brown was sued by the authors for lifting whole parts of their book for his own; the presiding judge said this could not be plagiarism, as they had presented their book as a history, the facts of which should be available to other authors to use. The irony of this is so exquisite Christ himself would crack a smile."

Of course, Holy Blood also was an important source for Robert Anton Wilson's The Widow's Son -- one of Wilson's best books, but not commercially successful enough to inspire a lawsuit.

Friday, March 9, 2012

New book on secret societies

Boing Boing runs an exclusive excerpt from a new book -- Ritual America: Secret Brotherhoods and Their Influence on American Society, by Adam Parfrey. Explaining the book, the article notes, " The book has more than four hundred images, and contributors who include the great Robert Anton Wilson (who wrote about Adam Weishaupt and The Illuminati a few months before he passed)."

Thursday, March 8, 2012

RAW helps Little Victories rock

From time to time, I've noted rock musicians and rappers who cite Robert Anton Wilson as an influence. Here's another example, one that amused me, about an "up and coming" band in Glasgow, Scotland, named Little Victories. Here's the band's leader, Kev Sherry, talking about how the band acquired its requisite "bad boy" reputation:

The band themselves have courted controversy with their support of counter-culture figures like Terence McKenna and Robert Anton Wilson but seem to enjoy the scandal.

Kev explains: “It’s the music that does the talking. If people want to freak out and believe we have put secret codes in the songs to corrupt teenage minds then fine. But at the end of the day it’s either a good song or it isn’t. That’s all we are concerned with.”

This philosophy seems to be serving the band well with regular radio play from the likes of Radio 1, Radio Scotland, Radio Clyde and a host of independent stations.

Laura explains: “The guys are known for being a wee bit out there. During the recording session, Kev kept ranting about how Neuro Linguistic Programming controls our minds. It was certainly interesting, if not quite something I believe myself.“

Entire article is here.

Traditionally, parents in the United States have worried about musicians slipping in reference to sex, drugs and violence. The moral panics in Scotland seem to be either more interesting or more sophisticated.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

RAW reviews Timothy Leary's "Exo-Psychology"

[Another recovered document, and another example of the "Illuminating Discords" column Robert Anton Wilson wrote for New Libertarian Notes. Today's article is from NLN 40, Sept. 4, 1977. Thanks again to Jesse Walker for collecting the original article, and Mike Gathers for sharing it with me. Tom]

Exo-Psychology by Timothy Leary. Starseed/Peace Press, Los Angeles, $7. 134 pp.

Dr. Timothy Leary's newest book is an astonishing performance even for the Most Controversial Man in America. It's only 134 pages long, but it contains literally hundreds of startling new ideas in psychology, neurology, ethology, astrophysics, genetics, sociology, and a dozen other sciences, making it one of the most compressed, condensed, highly charged volumes this reviewer has ever seen. Attempting to summarize it is like attempting to summarize the Encylopedia Britannica; to review is is like reviewing 20th Century culture itself.

Briefly, then: Exo-Psychology asserts that:

1. Life was seeded on Earth (and on millions of other planets in this galaxy) by Higher Intelligence. We cannot identify this Higher Intelligence yet but it might be (a) an advanced interstellar civilization, as suggested by Nobel geneticist Sir Francis Crick; (b) ourselves-in-the-future traveling backwards in time with a super-technology we can't at present conceive, as suggested by physicists Jack Sarfatti and Saul Paul Sirag, or (c) metaphysiological sub-atomic consciousness, as suggested by physicist Nick Herbert.

2. Higher Intelligence designed the DNA to evolve, through metamorphoses and migration, into ever more complex and more intelligent forms.

3. All living organisms on Earth are survival-machines designed by the DNA to transport itself about, reproduce itself, and create more and better DNA. In short, we are, as geneticist Herbert Muller likes to say, "giant robots" doing tasks we only dimly understand.

It will be seen, even this early in our summary, that Leary has given us, in the language of the most exciting theories at the cutting edge of current science, a translation of the ancient mystical teaching that we have been put here by a Power or Powers so far superior to us that we cannot begin to fathom It or Them. Here, however, Leary splits off from the mystics and takes us in a new direction entirely.

4. Due to re-imprinting of the nervous system by drugs like LSD, and also due to breakthroughs in sciences like ethology and genetics, we can now begin to understand the evolutionary drama and the purposes of the Designer(s).

5. Life on Earth has evolved through 12 stages -- (1) Primitive unicellular bio-survival, (2) Marine predation, (3) Amphibian symbiosis, (4) Back-bonding,* (5) Territoriality, (6) Mammalian status hierarchies, (7) Paleolithic artifact-creation, (8) Bronze Age technology, (9) Symbolic culture, (10) Barbarian conquest, (11) Patriarchal civilization, (12) Socialized collectivism.

6. Each individual recapitulates this evolutionary scenario in 12 similar stages -- (1) Infant dependency, (2) Oral sadism, (3) Mother-infant bonding, (4) Emotional game-playing, (5) Emotional  intelligence, (6) Status-seeking, (7) Passive symbolic learning, (8) Creative thinking, (9) Symbolic exchange-and-transmission, (10) Adolescent gang-formation, (11), Adult reproduction, (12) Social conscience.

7. At each stage of development, the individual takes a new imprint in the ethological sense and thus mutates from one "tunnel-reality" to another. That is, the emotional game-playing of the toddling infant (Stage 4, personality growth), recapitulates mammalian territorial rituals (Stage 4, evolution) and the child lives in a mammalian reality at that stage. The school child learns to parrot lessons (Stage 7) lives in a Paleolithic tunnel-reality (Stage 7). The adolescent gang recapitulates the barbarian horde (Stage 10) (Attila, Genghiz Khan, etc.) The socialized or domesticated adult (Stage 11) lives in the tunnel-reality of his or her guilt-virtue game (Stage 11).

8. All of this is 99.9999% automated and robotic. "Holes" in the DNA script -- moments of imprint vulnerability -- allow the organism to imprint local reality-tunnels, but the parameters of freedom there are mighty narrow. One might imprint homosexuality instead of heterosexual reproduction at Stage 11, but whatever sexual imprint one takes will freeze in place within the nervous system and repeat robotically for life.

9. No conditioning techniques can permanently change an imprint. Skinnerian Behavior Mod only works as long as the conditioner has the victim more or less imprisoned and totally controls reward and punishment. Once the subject gets free of the conditioner, behavior drifts inevitably back to the original imprint.

10. The only way to change an imprint is to chemically dissolve it at the synaptic level, through neuro-chemistry.

11. If anybody but yourself alters your imprints in this way, by chemical intervention in the nervous system, that person can totally brainwash and robotize you.

12. If you can learn how to use neurochemicals for serial re-imprinting of your own nervous system, you graduate to a new stage of evolution, which Leary symbolizes as I-squared, I2, which means intelligence-squared, or intelligence studying intelligence, i.e. the nervous system studying and reprogramming itself. You can then be as smart as you wish, as happy as you wish, as wise as you wish.

13. The more intelligent  you become, the more you will see the advantage in becoming even more intelligent.

14. "Since no one can allow the game to become bigger than Hir concept of the game (what is not imprinted is not real to the primate brain), therefore let us define the game as large, fast, intense, precise as possible: Unlimited Space, Unlimited Time and Unlimited Intelligence to enjoy same." In short Space Migration + Intelligence2  + Life Extension, or SMI2LE.

But all of this, alas, is just a summary of Dr. Leary's first 30 pages. Exo-Psychology is so compressed and packed tight with glittering new concepts that I despair of summarizing the other 100 pages in the space of a single review. There are 12 future stages of evolution, after the SMI2LE mutation, and they deal with spooky things investigated in quantum physics and parapsychology -- synchronicity, quantum inseparability, ESP, consciousness as the hidden variable in random events, etc. The goal toward which the DNA program has been oriented all along is Immortality.

In short, what we have here is a scientific update of the most ancient Gnostic teaching of all: "Eat this, and ye shall be as Gods." Fundamentalists of all persuasions can register their fury by writing to the letters column. I add only, as Tom Wolfe once asked of Marshall McLuhan, "Hey, but what if he's right?"

-- Robert Anton Wilson

* The article does say "Back-bonding," but I wonder if it was supposed to say "Pack-bonding." Tom.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Cato war -- we have the conspiracy theory!

John Merritt posted his conspiracy theory interpretation of the Koch brothers' attempt to take over the Cato Institute in a comment to my post a couple of days ago, and I enjoyed it so much I will reproduce it here:

"CATO has been a vocal opponent of the DrugWar, and in the last 6 months or so has turned out a lot of anti-DrugWar articles. With polls showing a majority of Americans now favoring some kind of legalization of pot, the social conservatives have to attack, and this may be one such avenue, i.e. taking over a major source of anti-DrugWar propaganda and silencing or running off the DrugWar opponents."

One possible problem with the theory is that the Kochs have been giving money for many years to libertarian groups that promote drug legalization; surely if they object to such positions, they would have noticed years ago and cut off the money. On the other hand, maybe someone got to the Kochs!

John also mentioned, " I have been a long-time though modest supporter of CATO from several reasons, and a putsch by the Koch Bros would definitely end my support." That's pretty much how I feel.

More on this from Gene Healy and Jason Kuznicki. Kuznicki thinks the Kochs want to silence Cato ""on civil liberties and the War on Drugs," so he backs Merritt's theory.

Incidentally, I notice that Cato's plight seems to be enjoyed both by right-wingers and left-wingers. Bipartisanship at last! The bipartisans gave us the "war on some drugs" and endless Asian land wars. Maybe they can destroy the Cato Institute, too.

Merritt's blog is here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Tackling life extension

Bloggers Michael Johnson and Oz Fritz, still working on the SMI2LE formula, both tackle the life extension part of the Timothy Leary/Robert Anton Wilson formula, albeit in very different ways.

Michael writes about the science of life extension, surveying various avenues of research. He writes that he will "have to do multiple posts on it over the coming months in order to feel like I've said anything substantial about it," but I thought I learned a lot reading his post thing morning.

Oz Fritz, meanwhile, writes about what he refers to as "Bardo training." He offers this thesis: "Some part of us can survive death. We call that part a bardo voyager." Lots of references to the first Cosmic Trigger, and he writes, "I found it interesting and telling that Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary, both proponents of any and every kind of life extension, turned down the cryogenics option - having their brain and/or body frozen with the hope of getting it reanimated at a later date when issues of mortality had been extended or resolved."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

When Bob met Phil

The 30th anniversary of Philip K. Dick's death was on Friday, and marked by this blog posting by David Gill at his Total Dick-Head blog.

Dick and Robert Anton Wilson were great fans of each other's work. I believe they met for the first time at Octocon II, a science fiction convention in Santa Rosa, Calif., in October 1978. RAW recalled the encounter, here.

Science fiction book editor David Hartwell also recalled the encounter when I interviewed him:

I went to a convention called Octacon, in California, Santa Rosa. And Wilson was there and I met him. And Phil Dick was there. And I had a small party in my hotel room, and there were six or seven people. It got down to Robert Anton Wilson and Philip K. Dick talking. And at a certain point, I could not follow what they were saying, and so I just left and went out and got a beer and came back later. They were still talking.

Frank Herbert's Wikipedia bio says he was the featured speaker at Octocon II in October 1978 in Santa Rosa, Calif. Hartwell later recalled to me in an email that it was an Octocon that featured a Robert A. Heinlein blood drive, and I later tracked down a fan, Thom Stark, who apparently confirmed via e-mail that the encounter RAW and Hartwell described was at Octocon II:

I can confirm that I met PKD at Octocon II, at which he was, if I'm not mistaken, one of two GoHs. I can also confirm that RAH was the featured attraction at a Red Cross bloodmobile there. (I was lucky enough to work door security for RAH's day-long autograph session. He and Theodore Sturgeon sat at a table in the back of the bloodmobile for eight hours signing autographs, the only requirement for which was that the autograph seeker had to have at least tried to donate blood. Virginia Heinlein spent the entire time standing behind RAH's shoulder.)

Stark did not remember RAW at the convention, but he remembered Frank Herbert being there, so the details seem to match up. Here is a link to someone named Ward Griffiths who recalls meeting RAW at that convention.

UPDATE: Griffiths confirms that PKD was a guest of honor at that October 1978 Octocon and RAW was there: "Not sure how your email got to me, but I do recall attending Octocon 2 and briefly meeting RAW there. I don't know whether RAW and PKD were on any panels together, as I rarely attended programming in those days ... but I do know RAW was there and PKD was the GOH. If RAW says they met, they had the opportunity and I'll take him at his word."

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Battle over a think tank

As I sometimes mention libertarian matters, because of Robert Anton Wilson's prominence in the "freedom movement," I will pass on the big news that is roiling the libertarian world: The Koch brothers have filed a lawsuit against the Cato Institute, seeking to gain enough shares in Cato to take it over.

Cato, if you aren't familiar with it, is the most prominent libertarian think tank, located in Washington, D.C., and the equivalent of the various liberal and conservative public policy think tanks. (Disclosure: I am generally a fan and I read their blogs, read their books, etc. Will Wilkinson, a writer I've mentioned at times on this blog, is a Cato alum who was forced out a couple of years ago, apparently for having suspicious progressive tendencies. Julian Sanchez, a current Cato employee, is a well-respected leader on Internet freedom issues. On political issues, I listen pretty carefully to them, along with Jesse Walker and Tyler Cowen and to non-libertarians such as Supergee.)

Jonathan Adler's commentary on the matter (at the Volokh conspiracy) seems on point to me. Excerpt:

Whatever the merits of the Kochs’ claim, I cannot understand how their actions can, in any way, advance the cause of individual liberty to which they’ve devoted substantial sums and personal efforts over the years. Even assuming their legal claim has merit, a legal victory will permanently injure the Cato Institute’s reputation.

Many libertarian-leaning organizations receive money from the Kochs and their foundations and are attacked on this basis. Such attacks can be deflected, as financial support is not the same thing as control. But if the Koch brothers themselves represent the controlling majority of an organization’s board, that organization is, by definition, a Koch-run enterprise. Progressive activists and journalists will have a field day with this. They will forevermore characterize the Cato Institute as “Koch-controlled” — and, as a legal matter, they will be correct. No efforts to re-establish the Institute’s credibility or independence will overcome this fact. 

The Koch brothers may well have legitimate concerns about how the Cato Institute is managed. I don’t know. They may have good ideas about how to make the Institute more effective. Again, I don’t know. From my perspective, it seems that Cato’s work nicely complements the efforts of more activist organizations the Kochs support, but I may not see the whole picture. That’s not the point. Even if one assumes that the Kochs have better ideas for how Cato should direct its resources, know more about how to advance individual liberty, and are correct that the Institute is too “ subject to the personal preferences of individual officers or directors,” any benefit from whatever changes they could make will be outweighed to the permanent damage to Cato’s reputation caused by turning it into a de facto Koch subsidiary. In short, they will have destroyed the Cato Institute to save it.

The Vokokh-conspiracy is a libertarian-leaning law blog and probably will be the place to go to follow details on the lawsuit.

A "save Cato" Facebook site already has been set up.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Matheny asks for help

Joseph Matheny, busy trying to revamp the invaluable Robert Anton Wilson Fans site, has asked for volunteers to help. (See this post for more details on the planned changes.) Matheny's Feb. 29 Tweet: "Will be looking for editors and designers to help out with soon. email me: if interested."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

RAW and Borges

I did not know that Robert Anton Wilson was particularly interested in Jorge Luis Borges, but Michael Johnson sets me straight in a recent blog post:

"For fellow Robert Anton Wilson scholars, he named Borges as an influential "experimental modern" writer, along with Joyce and Faulkner, in an interview with Charles Platt in 1983 or so. In a letter to his friend Kurt Smith, RAW compares Borges to Wilde and Yeats. (!) In his book Chaos and Beyond, he mentions Borges as "avante garde" along with Joyce and William S. Burroughs. In an issue of his magazine Trajectories RAW lumps Borges in with a large cast of guerrilla ontologists, tricksters, postmodernists and others he calls 'codologists.' "